The main goals of TIWA （the Taiwan International Workers’ Association）are to promote cooperation between migrant and local workers, to improve the working conditions and social environment for migrant workers in Taiwan, and to increase workers’ rights and benefits. Taiwan began implementing a guest worker program in 1989. There are currently over 300,000 migrant workers in Taiwan, mostly from the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Not only have they contributed their labor, but they have become a unique part of Taiwan’s vibrant society and cultural life.
Government policies, however, are both racist and classist, and disempower migrant workers in many ways. As cheap labor in Taiwan, migrant workers face the worst working conditions. They also face discrimination in Taiwanese society, where they are frequently made scapegoats for rising unemployment and any number of social problems. Aside from guest workers, there is also a rapidly increasing number of “foreign brides” – women from the PRC and Southeast Asia who have married Taiwanese men. These women are also widely scapegoated in the Taiwanese media as the source of numerous “social problems,” and face social isolation, barriers to citizenship rights, and discrimination in the workplace.
TIWA was established in October 30, 1999. It is the first local NGO in Taiwan to work for the rights of both foreign spouses and migrant workers. The members of TIWA are experience labor activists and members of local unions. TIWA promotes inter-communication between local and migrant workers and fights for migrants’ rights. TIWA supports migrant workers’ self-empowerment, including helping them to organize their own ndependent organizations, such as the Taiwan Indonesian Workers’ Association (TIMWA) for the Indonesian workers and KaSaPi (a Filipino workers’ organization). TIWA also fights the racism and classism within Taiwanese society by organizing cultural events such as musical and dance concerts, cooking classes, poetry contests, and photo workshops, in order to challenge negative stereotypes of Southeast Asians in Taiwan.
Since 2002, TIWA has also been organizing a wide network of international NGOs in Taiwan to form the Promoting Alliance for the Household Service Act (PAHSA). PAHSA is fighting for legal protection for domestic workers, who are not yet covered by the Labor Standards Law.